Bible-based Society of Kingdom Witnesses
THE establishment of God’s kingdom is news of the greatest importance to all peoples and national groups. (Dan. 7:14) Not only survival, but their eternal life depends upon coming into peaceful relationship with God’s King and kingdom before the great war of Armageddon breaks. (Ps. 2:1-12; Rev. 16:14, 16) To make this important information known around the world Jehovah God has raised up a society of Kingdom witnesses who are active in 187 lands. You know them as “Jehovah’s witnesses.”
In fact, you may be one of the hundreds of thousands of persons of goodwill who receive Jehovah’s witnesses into your home every week for an interesting Bible study. Perhaps you have wondered: Who authorized Jehovah’s witnesses to do this work? How did they get their knowledge of the Bible? What is their organization like?
The answers to these questions are important to you because of the command stated by the apostle Paul at Hebrews 10:23-25: “Let us hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that promised. And let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.”
Obeying that divine command is not a matter of joining just any convenient church. The apostle calls for association with true Christians who see Jehovah’s day drawing near and who regularly and zealously make public declaration of their faith. He urges association with those Christians whose meetings increase your love for God and neighbor, causing you to do fine works. That is why the following information is provided. Life is involved in your recognizing the Bible-based society of Kingdom witnesses and associating with it, “not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together.”
WHY ARE THEY CALLED “JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES”?
Jehovah’s witnesses follow Christ Jesus, not any man or man-made organization, and for that reason they call their organization by the name of no man. Like Jesus, their chief work is to “bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37) God’s Word is truth, so their witnessing is in behalf of God, whose name alone is Jehovah. (John 17:17; Ps. 83:18) Those faithfully speaking on his behalf Jehovah calls his witnesses: “‘You are my witnesses,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘even my servant whom I have chosen.’” (Isa. 43:10) Early witnesses of Jehovah brought praise to his name by various acts of faith. (Heb. 11:4–12:2) Jehovah’s modern witnesses faithfully take the good news of God’s established kingdom to “all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” (Matt. 24:14) Appropriately, their God and his important work are identified by the Scriptural name “Jehovah’s witnesses.”
IS EVERY WITNESS A MINISTER?
Yes, in the true Scriptural sense of the word. A minister of God is a public servant (Greek, diákonos, “through the dust”) of Jehovah God, one who follows in Jesus’ footsteps, getting out in public, even traveling dusty roads, to preach the good news of God’s kingdom. There is an urgency about it, as the apostle Paul emphasized when he said: “I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, . . . preach the word, be at it urgently.” (2 Tim. 4:1, 2) Every true Christian gladly renders such ministerial service as a regular part of his worship leading to salvation. As Romans 10:10 states: “With the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.” Authority to minister comes to dedicated men, women and youths from the highest Source, God himself. “Praise Jehovah from the earth, . . . you young men and also you virgins, you old men together with boys. Let them praise the name of Jehovah.” (Ps. 148:7, 12, 13) Everyone who wants God’s approval responds to that command, bearing in mind the words of James: “You see that a man is to be declared righteous by works, and not by faith alone. Indeed, as the body without breath is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (Jas. 2:24, 26; Rev. 22:17) If you embrace the teachings of the Bible and live your faith, you will be God’s minister too.
WHO ORDAINS JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES?
The only valid ordination to the Christian ministry comes from God. (2 Cor. 3:5, 6; Isa. 61:1, 2) Those who are ordained by an organization of men are ministers of such organization, but those ordained by God are his ministers. In the Bible God outlines the requirements for those who become his ministers. They must study his Word to learn his will and then bring their lives into harmony with it. If one does this, God requires that one make a personal dedication to do His will. (Rom. 12:1) This dedication, this vow to do God’s will, is made in private prayer to Jehovah God through Christ. Then, in symbol of such dedication, one must be baptized in water as Jesus was. (Matt. 3:13-17) He now becomes God’s ordained minister.
He did not ordain himself by vowing to serve God, nor did the one baptizing him ordain him. God’s commission to all those dedicating themselves to do His will is what constitutes the ordination of such persons as his ministers, and He backs them up with his holy spirit. Not only men, but women and qualified youths may receive this Scriptural ordination. (Ps. 68:11; Acts 2:17, 18; Rom. 16:1; Eccl. 12:1) While God’s commandment to preach the Kingdom good news is there in the Bible for all to read, it constitutes the ordination only of those who meet his requirements. It may be compared to the issuing of a diploma to a school graduate. While the wording of the diplomas is basically the same, and anyone can read them, what they say does not apply to everyone. One’s name belongs on such a diploma only when he meets the requirements. Likewise, it is after study, dedication and baptism that the commission of God recorded in the Bible constitutes one’s ordination. Of course, seminary training and written certificates of ordination are not requirements for Scriptural ordination. (John 7:15; Acts 4:13; Gal. 1:11, 12, 15-17) Rather, ministers ordained by Jehovah and backed up by his holy spirit produce living letters of recommendation. (2 Cor. 3:1-3) Every sincere student of God’s Word will appreciate that the real purpose of studying the Bible is to qualify for this ordination that means life for others as well as for himself. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17; 1 Tim. 4:16) Of course, students newly associated with the society of Kingdom witnesses may share in giving the public witness, but they become ordained ministers only when they make a dedication and are baptized in obedience to God’s will. (Matt. 28:19, 20) Toward that end they study diligently.
WHY DO THEY PREACH FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE?
Jehovah’s witnesses take the good news to the homes of the people because this is the example set by Jesus and his apostles. Luke 8:1 says of Jesus: “He went journeying from city to city and from village to village, preaching and declaring the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him.” Regarding the apostles, Acts 5:42 states: “And every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.” At Ephesus Paul taught Christians how to preach “publicly and from house to house.” (Acts 20:20) Early Christians made return visits on interested persons, and this Jehovah’s witnesses also do. Of course, modern means of communication, such as radio and the printed page, are used extensively, but basically their work is done by going from house to house in the early Christian manner. This is the best way to ensure that no one hungering and thirsting for righteousness is overlooked. (Matt. 5:6) Love motivates Christians to go from house to house.
WHAT KIND OF MEETINGS DO JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES HOLD?
Like the early Christians, Jehovah’s modern-day witnesses congregate for Bible study and to equip themselves for preaching the Kingdom message. Jesus said: “Where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst.” (Matt. 18:20) This is true whether his followers meet in private homes or in modest auditoriums called “Kingdom Halls.” (Rom. 16:5; Acts 20:8) The congregation schedules five hours of meetings each week, as follows:
Congregation Book Study. Early in the week Jehovah’s witnesses and persons who have been studying the Bible with them go to the nearest home designated by the congregation for a one-hour group study, using the Bible and a textbook provided by the Watch Tower Society. Here you can get acquainted with your closest neighbors who are interested in serving Jehovah and living in his righteous new world. (Mal. 3:16-18; 2 Pet. 3:13) The small size of the group enables you to speak up freely and get accustomed to declaring your faith before others. (Heb. 13:15) At the same time your knowledge is sharpened by the comments of others present.—Prov. 27:17.
The home where such book study is held is known as a Service Center, because those associated meet there at convenient times to go out to the neighboring homes and preach the good news of God’s kingdom. Arrangements are made for students and newly baptized Witnesses to receive assistance and training from a mature Witness for as long as they need it. They learn how to give an effective witness at the door, how to keep a record of interested persons and the best way to follow up such interest until the seed that is planted becomes fruitful.—1 Cor. 3:6.
Theocratic Ministry School. Nineteen centuries ago Jehovah’s witnesses were very much interested in improving their ability to preach. That is why Paul wrote Timothy: “Become an example to the faithful ones in speaking, . . . continue applying yourself to public reading, to exhortation, to teaching. Ponder over these things; be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons.” (1 Tim. 4:12, 13, 15; 2 Tim. 2:15) Because Jehovah’s witnesses today are also interested in continual improvement they enroll in the Theocratic Ministry School that is held at the Kingdom Hall one evening each week. This is a perpetual training school for men, women and children Students give short talks to the group and practice sermons meant for individuals, as well as give Bible readings. There are special textbooks, speech counsel slips and a qualified counselor who offers helpful suggestions for improvement. In the course of this training the Bible is read all the way through and a wide range of Bible doctrines and topics are covered. As a result of this excellent training the men are able to give informative Bible lectures, and women and children are able to give more effective sermons from house to house. Any who attend meetings at the Kingdom Hall and who want to enjoy the satisfaction of improving the quality of their praise to God may enroll for the free training offered in the Theocratic Ministry School.
Service Meeting. Generally on the same evening as the Theocratic Ministry School the congregation holds a weekly Service Meeting patterned after the meetings held by Jesus and the apostles for their instruction. (Luke 10:2-16; Acts 4:23-31; 1 Cor. 14:26) Following the example set by Jesus, counsel is given on proper preaching methods. The Service Meeting is based on instructions provided in a monthly pamphlet entitled “Kingdom Ministry.” A variety of speakers discuss and demonstrate new door-to-door sermons, how to increase and follow up placements of Bible literature, and the best way to conduct a home Bible study. By attending Service Meetings both experienced Witnesses and new ones improve their ability in the service of God. Thus one’s preaching becomes more pleasing to God, gets better results and is more enjoyable.—Prov. 1:5; 11:14.
Public Talk. Most congregations take advantage of Sunday morning for house-to-house preaching. That is why the entire congregation usually assembles at the Kingdom Hall on Sunday afternoon or evening for the weekly public talk and Watchtower study. At the congregation meetings you can obtain attractive handbills to use for inviting others to attend the public talk, which is patterned after the Bible lectures given in early Christian times. (Matt. 5:1–7:29; 13:1-36; Acts 5:42) The speakers are local or visiting Witnesses who have qualified by training, maturity and zeal in the ministry. Each year the Watch Tower Society provides new talk topics and printed outlines that guide the speakers in working up informative, one-hour Bible lectures. In any one year, more than twenty-four different topics are scheduled. Each lecture helps you to get a better grasp of an important Bible subject. To accomplish this the speakers spend many hours researching, preparing and rehearsing their material for the upbuilding of the congregation and those persons of goodwill who are studying with Jehovah’s witnesses. The congregation appreciates the valuable efforts of these mature speakers “who work hard in speaking and teaching.” (1 Tim. 5:17) Your presence at the one-hour public talk brings you the benefits of their many hours of careful Bible study—a precious bargain that is yours “without money and without price.”—Isa. 55:1-3.
“Watchtower” Study. The Sunday public talk is generally followed by the most important congregation meeting, the Watchtower study. This is a question-and-answer discussion resembling the congregation book study except that the material is found in the Watchtower magazine and the entire congregation meets in one place. The discussion differs from the book study in that the Watchtower study material usually is more personal. It deals with the application of Bible prophecies and Christian principles to your daily living and warns against the pitfalls of unchristian conduct. (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 13:5) Through the columns of The Watchtower comes increased light on God’s Word as Jehovah makes this known. (Prov. 4:18) Some of the recent lessons were entitled: “Why Be Baptized?” “Children, Do You Obey Jehovah?” “Christian Conduct in a Divided Household,” “Be Courageous and Strong Through Faith,” “Respect for the Sanctity of Blood,” “Avoid the Pitfalls,” “Watch Your Associations in the Time of the End,” “Manifesting Christian Manners,” “Training Your Perceptive Powers,” “Patience and Endurance.” Because of the vital nature of these discussions the Watchtower study is a most important meeting for all of Jehovah’s witnesses and persons of goodwill. It enables all to be fitly united in the same line of thought. (1 Cor. 1:10) Come prepared to participate and you will find the words of Proverbs 15:23 true: “A man has rejoicing in the answer of his mouth, and a word at its right time is O how good!”
CONVENTIONS OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES
The coming together of large numbers of Jehovah’s people has long been a feature of true worship. (Deut. 16:1-16; 31:10-13) During the festival of Pentecost, A.D. 33, reverent Jews from fifteen nations and provinces heard Jesus’ disciples bear thorough witness to the good news about Christ. (Acts 2) So today, conventions of Jehovah’s people afford an opportunity to give a witness to God’s kingdom in an impressive way. The very fact that so many Christian persons have come together makes people ask questions, as they did at Pentecost. Then, too, the effect of God’s holy spirit is seen on the congregated throngs who come from distant places and different lands and yet manifest Christian love and unity, free from the world’s prejudice and discord. (Ps. 133:1) Further, the love that motivates these Witnesses to contribute their time and labor to serve their Christian brothers by operating the various assembly departments is a source of amazement to the world, resulting in an effective witness. (John 13:34, 35) Twice a year congregations tied together as a “circuit” meet for a three-day circuit assembly. In addition to special talks and demonstrations an opportunity is presented for those who have recently made a dedication to symbolize it by public baptism. At intervals many circuits come together for a district assembly. There are also national and international conventions. All these Christian conventions provide a fine witness to God’s kingdom and afford occasion for Jehovah’s ministers to “keep comforting one another and building one another up.”—1 Thess. 5:11.
DO THEY HAVE PRESIDING MINISTERS?
Yes, each congregation has a presiding minister known as the congregation servant or overseer. He is not the “leader” of the other ministers, but is appointed by holy spirit to shepherd God’s flock and set the right example. (Matt. 23:8-12; 1 Pet. 5:2; Acts 20:28) Qualifying as the congregation servant is not a matter of seniority. Rather, it is spiritual maturity as a Christian that counts. The Scriptural qualifications for an overseer are found at 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. His duties are to see that all living in the territory assigned to the congregation receive a regular and thorough witness and that all in the congregation are aided to fulfill their dedication in a manner acceptable to God. To equip him to do this better he is given special training at the Kingdom Ministry School operated for this purpose, usually at the branch office of the Society. The overseer must copy Jesus in showing love and hospitality to the “sheep” and the strangers who associate with the congregation. Under the gaze of Christ the King, each overseer “must prove to be like a hiding place from the wind and a place of concealment from the rainstorm, like streams of water in a waterless country, like the shadow of a heavy crag in an exhausted land.” (Isa. 32:1, 2) In this responsibility of shepherding God’s flock the overseer has a number of assistants called ministerial servants.—1 Tim. 3:8; Phil. 1:1.
THE DUTIES OF MINISTERIAL SERVANTS
To be a ministerial servant one must meet the requirements stated at 1 Timothy 3:8-13. Like the overseer, he must copy Jehovah and Christ Jesus in tenderly shepherding God’s people. (Isa. 40:11; John 10:11) Ministerial servants are appointed, not merely to assist the overseer, but to give personal help to the congregation. (1 Cor. 10:24) Here are their duties:
Assistant Congregation Servant. This mature minister has oversight of the congregation in the overseer’s absence. His duty is to aid in coordinating the rendering of assistance to all through the individual service centers. He knows who is in need of aid because he tabulates the reports turned in by each Witness. As in Bible times, Jehovah’s modern witnesses keep accurate records of their ministry. (Ezek. 9:11; Acts 2:41; 4:4) Each minister reports his hours devoted to preaching, literature placements, return visits and Bible studies conducted. These are posted on individual Publisher’s Record cards, which not only reveal which publisher needs aid, but enable the congregation to recommend qualified Witnesses to the Watch Tower Society for appointment to special privileges of service. (1 Tim. 3:10; 5:22) Once a month the congregation’s combined report goes to the Society’s branch office. Eventually all branch reports go to the world headquarters of the Society in Brooklyn, New York. An annual Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses is then printed containing interesting experiences and encouraging reports from the worldwide society of Kingdom preachers. The assistant congregation servant lovingly encourages all to have a regular part in the witness now being given.—Matt. 24:14.
Bible Study Servant. Because all of Jehovah’s witnesses are teachers they make return visits on interested persons and conduct home Bible studies. (Dan. 11:33; 12:3; Gal. 6:6) On the basis of the Bible Study Reports turned in by each minister the Bible study servant can make helpful suggestions. He is eager to help those in the congregation start new Bible studies and conduct them in the most beneficial manner. Through his faithful and patient efforts more people receive a better knowledge of God’s Word and purpose.
Literature Servant. You have noted that Jehovah’s witnesses use printed sermons when they teach. The books and booklets containing such sermons are ordered and cared for by this ministerial servant at the congregation’s literature counter. Newly interested persons also are welcome to obtain publications from him for distribution to friends and acquaintances.—2 Tim. 4:13; Eccl. 11:6.
Magazine-Territory Servant. The congregation places many copies of each issue of The Watchtower and Awake! in its territory. These magazines are ordered and cared for by the magazine-territory servant. Many newly associated with the congregation find witnessing with the magazines an easy way to take their first step in door-to-door preaching. This ministerial servant aids new and experienced Witnesses to present these printed sermons effectively and give them the widest possible distribution. He reserves whatever quantity of magazines each one wishes of each issue for personal distribution. Of course, whether they are using magazines or books and booklets, confusion would result if homes were covered in a hit-and-miss fashion. To prevent this, each congregation is assigned a certain territory by the Society. (Matt. 13:38; 2 Cor. 10:13-16) By assigning small portions of that territory to individual ministers, the magazine-territory servant ensures an orderly coverage of all the homes within the congregation’s boundaries.—1 Cor. 14:33.
Accounts Servant. While salaries are not paid the overseer or the ministerial assistants, maintaining a Kingdom Hall and ordering literature involve expenses. These are met by voluntary contributions. There are no collection plates, tithes, envelopes or lists of contributors. (Matt. 6:1-4) Each one is free to drop a gift into the contribution box “as he may be prospering.” (2 Ki. 12:9; 1 Cor. 16:2) The accounts servant cares for these funds and sees that contributions are used to advance the preaching work and Kingdom interests.
Other Appointments. Earlier we discussed the Theocratic Ministry School, the Watchtower study and the book study. A minister is appointed by the Watch Tower Society to preside over each. They are known as the school servant, Watchtower study servant and book study conductor. As with the other ministerial servants, their chief concern is lovingly to aid each one in the congregation to get the full benefit out of the meetings that they conduct. (1 Thess. 2:8) They take a personal interest in showing new ones and others needing help how to study and make regular advancement as servants of God.—Phil. 2:4.
The Society also appoints ministers to a variety of service privileges open to dedicated ministers. These are vacation, regular and special pioneer ministers, circuit, district and zone servants, missionaries and branch office staff members who live as Bethel families. Wherever one serves in Jehovah’s organization, he is interested in his neighbor’s salvation as well as his own.—Matt. 22:36-40.
A CLEAN ORGANIZATION
No one is invited to go out in the witness work if he is living an immoral life, gets drunk, or is dishonest in his business dealings. One must change from that way of life if he is to serve God acceptably and enter God’s new world. (1 Cor. 6:9-11) When one has been washed clean from those practices, Jehovah requires him to remain clean. (2 Pet. 2:20-22) In order to have God’s spirit and prosper, the congregation must carefully guard that no unchristian conduct is tolerated. A service committee composed of the congregation overseer, assistant congregation servant and Bible study servant are primarily charged with that responsibility. If they find that through immaturity or imperfection one makes a misstep before he is aware of it, and he is sincerely repentant, the committee may show mercy and place such one on probation. (Gal. 6:1) But anyone making a practice of sin must be disfellowshiped. (1 Cor. 5:9-13; 2 John 10, 11) One disfellowshiped and later reinstated cannot be recommended as an overseer or ministerial servant, since his reputation is not above reproach. (2 Cor. 2:5-11; 1 Tim. 3:1, 2, 7; Titus 1:7) The committee and the Society will take appropriate disciplinary action against any dedicated minister who does wrong, regardless of his position in the organization. Since each Christian follows Christ and not men, this action should not be a cause for stumbling to one who loves righteousness. (Heb. 12:1, 2; Luke 17:1; 2 Pet. 2:1, 2) Rather, it is an assurance to you that you are associated with a clean organization, one that God will bless.—Eph. 5:27; 1 Pet. 1:15, 16.
WHAT ABOUT WORSHIP AT HOME?
The importance of worshiping Jehovah at home and frequently discussing God’s Word there is illustrated at Deuteronomy 6:6, 7. There are many opportunities to do this, such as in prayer at meals, individual prayers at bedtime, and personal and group Bible study among family members. Parents and children, young and old, all prosper the most when the family circle operates in harmony with Christian principles. (Eph. 5:22–6:4) Jehovah’s witnesses find the daily Bible text and comment provided in the Yearbook a helpful topic of breakfast discussion. Make your home the place to start each day right by seeking first the Kingdom.—Matt. 6:33.
From this discussion you now have a general picture of the Bible-based organization of Kingdom witnesses. You will note from the scriptures quoted herein that it operates strictly in harmony with Bible principles. This is the organization that brings the life-giving message of Jehovah’s Word and kingdom into your home. (John 17:3) This is the congregation that incites you to love and fine works. This is the Christian society that is willing and ready to encourage you in faithfulness to God. (Heb. 10:23-25) Its existence is a credit to Jehovah God, its Creator. Because his spirit backs it up, sincere observers in all parts of the world cannot help but agree with the conclusion stated by Charles Samuel Braden, professor of history, in his book These Also Believe:
“As witnesses under divine constraint to make known the imminence of the end of the age and the coming of the Theocracy, they seek by every conceivable means to get their message to the people. One need never be surprised at any new method they may evolve. Jehovah’s witnesses have literally covered the earth with their witnessing. . . . It may be truly said that no single religious group in the world displayed more zeal and persistence in the attempt to spread the good news of the Kingdom than the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
If you are one who is interested in doing the divine will, if you want to have a share in the Kingdom preaching work that is now being done in all nations, Jehovah’s witnesses welcome you to associate with them and benefit from these provisions that Jehovah God has lovingly made to qualify his Kingdom witnesses for the work that he has given them to do.